Friday, October 30, 2009

Perfect Panthers on the right path

By Ryan Boldrey
Published: 10.29.09
The Woodland Park Panthers sixth grade lightweight football team just concluded its season with a perfect 7-0 record.

According to the coaching staff of Brent Garretson, Shawn Manzo, Tom Ereon and Bill Zuspan, it’s the first time in memory that a Woodland Park team at this age group has gone unbeaten.

Three years ago there was a team that lost on the last play of the last game of the season, finishing at 6-1, said Zuspan.

This year the squad wasn’t even close to losing the final contest as they mercied their opponent 45-0, having the game called early for the third consecutive week due to holding such a lopsided lead.

“I think the kids had a very, very positive season and experience for the whole season,” Zuspan said. “Of course, every kid likes to win, but at this age, we are just trying to help them to improve.”

And when Garretson— a former coach at Sierra High School whose grandson Jymon is on the team— first started coaching the offense for this group last year they had a 1-2 record in their fifth grade league.

The team hasn’t lost since; finishing last year at 5-2 and going perfect this season.

Yet as Zuspan said, so much at this age group is just about improving.

“We spend an inordinate amount of time on technique and we do very little hitting [in practice],” Garretson said. “We do our hitting early in the year. I am a firm believer in not hitting much because then they get beat up and sore and aren’t ready to hit in games. Plus we are more concerned with injuries.”

Part of the reason the coaches spend so much time on technique too is because they want to see the boys be successful when they get to the high school level, and the best way for that to happen, according to both Zuspan and Garretson, is to learn the fundamentals and techniques at an early age.

“They are a smart group of kids, they learn quick and they execute,” Garretson said. “They are being taught what the high schools teams are being taught. It’s a little above what most kids their age are learning.”

The team ran a 5-3-3 defense with blitzing linebackers and stunting lineman and on offense the Panthers ran both the single wing and I formation.

“They had a lot to remember,” Garretson said. “They ran a lot of plays, and, we threw the ball a lot. We primarily ran it, but we also threw it. I’ve seen a lot of ninth grade teams that couldn’t run as many plays as they did.”

That was also likely part of the reason the team was blowing out its fellow sixth grade competition from around Colorado Springs from start to finish this season.

The help he had coaching was another main reason for the Panthers’ success according to Garretson, as were the parents.

“Shawn Manzo did a terrific job and just works great with the kids, and Bill helped out a lot with the line, the line drills and teaching the kids how to punch through the defense,” he said, adding that the parents were extremely supportive and understanding as well.

“Kasha Cox was outstanding as the team mother,” he added. “She deserves a lot of credit. She even made certificates for the boys at the end of the season and got little trophies for them.”

On the field, though, Garretson said he couldn’t ask for anything more and expects a lot from this group in the future as long as they stick together, and pick up the newcomers to their level in coming years.

“We had an outstanding quarterback [Matt Cox] that really came in at the end of the year, and he had to learn things that were a little above his age,” Garretson said. “Dominik Cunico and Eric Gonzalez both really ran the ball well, and the whole team just improved and got better as the season went along... Great kids and great parents that was the key.”

Panther victories

Week 1 Pinon Ravens 42-6

Week 2 Rudy Browns 30-6

Week 3 Rampart Chargers 31-6

Week 4 Pinon Panthers 32-6

Week 5 Widefield Raiders 34-6

Week 6 Broadmoor ‘Skins 39-0

Week 7 Police Athletics 45-0

Pikes Peak Courier View and Teller County Extra
1200 E. Highway 24
Woodland Park, CO 80863]



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